Losing Sleep? You’re Not Alone

The 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey sponsored by the Better Sleep Council shows sleeplessness on the rise. Here’s why

Editor’s note

As part of the strategic plan of the International Sleep Products Association to provide knowledge and data to members of the bedding community, the Better Sleep Council (ISPA’s consumer education arm) recently conducted two series of surveys to further the industry’s understanding of consumer trends. The following articles provide summaries of these BSC research projects. The first articles examines the results of the second annual State of America’s Sleep, which serves as a yearly report on how Americans are sleeping and assesses the influences that are affecting sleep. The second survey, focuses on the buyer’s journey, tracing the path consumers follow when considering and purchasing a mattress. Included here is the second in a three-part series. (Read the first story, Insights Into the Mattress Buyer’s Journey.)

Americans are sleeping worse than they did a year ago. That’s the finding of the 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey, fielded by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association. The second edition of the sleep survey — conducted in January with a follow-up in March to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — found that the quality of Americans’ sleep has declined since 2019. 

head with clocks

More than four in 10 Americans described their sleep as poor or fair, and most get less than the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. Thirty-seven percent of respondents reported waking up tired often or frequently, and a quarter said they wake up stiff, sore or in pain. And nearly half — 47% — said they never or rarely wake up feeling refreshed, while 45% said they wake up at night often or frequently.

Why are so many people sleeping less or poorly? A number of factors have contributed to the decline in restful sleep, from economic stress and fear of COVID-19 to an increase in poor health habits. (Scroll for the survey’s findings on the effects of the economy and COVID-19 on sleep.) 

“This year’s State of America’s Sleep survey gives us a unique look at not only how sleep habits have changed since last year, but also how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has affected them,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communication for ISPA and the BSC. “The data shows people are feeling more stressed out and sleeping less. Being able to better understand what today’s shopper is feeling and thinking allows our industry to better connect, create solutions and start improving America’s sleep.”

Policy points

Economic and health fears certainly have been a source of stress for many Americans, particularly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But those aren’t the only national issues causing concern. 

> According to the survey, 66% of Americans were worried about terrorism, an increase from 2019. And 51% of respondents reported feeling threatened by the actions of other countries toward the United States, up from 43% in 2019.

>In regard to immigration, 47% of respondents thought illegal immigration posed a threat to the country, while 46% saw current immigration policies as a threat to the nation.

>Just over a quarter of respondents felt the country is headed in the right direction, and 73% were concerned about the current political climate in the United States. In addition, 73% of those surveyed expressed concern about the environmental health of the planet. 

Interpersonal issues

Another source of stress for many Americans is the status of their relationships — or lack thereof — with family and friends. 

While more than two-thirds of respondents who are parents said their children are a huge source of pleasure in their lives, 40% said being a parent is a significant source of stress. 

When it comes to relationships outside the home, 40% of respondents acknowledged wishing they had more friends. And 34% admit to having a difficult time being in social situations.

Hindering habits

Whether they realize it or not, many Americans negatively impact their sleep by engaging in habits that can disrupt or diminish rest. 

• Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they have their last caffeinated beverage two hours or less before going to bed, and 44% reported drinking water before bed. More than half eat their last meal or snack two hours or less before bedtime, with 21% snacking right before bed.

• The number of Americans who exercise dropped from last year, with more than a quarter saying they don’t exercise. And those who do engage in physical activity are doing it less than last year. Respondents reported spending an average of 2.31 hours a week exercising in 2020 versus 2.48 hours in 2019.

• And while more than half of respondents silence their smartphone at bedtime, many engage in sleep-disturbing digital activities just prior to bed. Sixty-four percent reported watching television or streaming video on their phone or tablet before bed. And 36% check social media before retiring, while 26% admitted to checking email prior to bedtime.

Setting the scene

For many Americans, their quality of sleep also can depend on the environment of their bedroom and the quality of sleep products they use.  

One source of restless sleep could be the mattress many Americans rest on each night. Thirty-one percent reported sleeping on a mattress that is at least 6 years old, if not older. And nearly a quarter of respondents sleep on pillows that are 3 to 5 years old. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents sleep with a fan on in their bedroom, a quarter sleep with a pet and 28% sleep with the television on. Smart sleep devices — from air quality monitoring devices to smart thermostats — were used only by small percentages of respondents. 


In 2019, the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, launched the State of America’s Sleep, a benchmark survey to measure the quality of sleep in the United States year over year. In 2020, the BSC fielded three research initiatives as part of the study, first utilizing the questionnaire from the previous year for a study launched in January. In March, after the onset of COVID-19 in the United States, the BSC conducted a follow-up survey, including a subset of the January survey to compare change in sleep since the coronavirus pandemic began. The third initiative was an analysis of social media posts before and during COVID-19 to identify sleep issues related to the pandemic. Results are based on 2,000 survey respondents representing U.S. adults ages 18-plus fielded in January, along with an additional 1,105 respondents to the follow-up survey in March.

Social Cues 

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the United States, bringing stress and fear along with it, many Americans turned to social media to vent their concerns and frustrations. With that in mind, the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, conducted an analysis of social media comparing posts from the week of March 15-22, 2019, with the same week this year, after the coronavirus began affecting the United States.

Overall, mentions of sleep are down this year from 1.37 million to 1.15 million, a drop of 16%. Negative comments about sleep increased by 62% from last year — from 45% to 73% in 2020. And social posts mentioning both sleep and stress jumped from 23,800 in March 2019 to 26,500 this year.

During one week in March, 63,300 posts about sleep and coronavirus/COVID-19 were noted on social media channels. And posts mentioning sleep and health, as well as posts on sleep and sickness, increased by 31% and 17%, respectively, over the same time last year. 

Another hot topic on social media? Sleep and money. Posts mentioning sleep and the economy swelled 270% from March 2019 to the same time this year. And those talking about sleep and the stock market skyrocketed from 3,780 last March to 9,040 this year.

As Americans grapple with living their new normal, the added stress of this unprecedented situation has many, like this mom, venting their frustration online: “As a single mom who has been losing sleep trying to be strong emotionally and make ends meet, adding the worry of our health is a lot.”

Note: Social media numbers were pulled from Meltwater, software that monitors media coverage.

Survey Says: Economic Stress Leading to Poor Sleep

pink piggy bank

Concerns over the economy — both personal finances and the nation’s financial health, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — contribute to poor sleep for many Americans, according to the State of America’s Sleep report. The survey — conducted by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association — was fielded in two waves, one in January and the other in March after the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The results show significant changes in sleep habits and general mood not only over last year, but in the months before and after the novel coronavirus reached the United States, as well.

According to the survey, the average number of hours of sleep each night by respondents was six hours and 50 minutes, just short of the recommended seven hours or more. And more than four in 10 Americans (43%) described their sleep as poor or fair, an increase from 38% in 2019. Women led that increase, accounting for more than half of poor sleepers.

One of the main contributors to this spike in poor sleep is increased stress. According to the survey, 41% of Americans said they felt stress often or very often, up from 36% last year. With the added pressures of COVID-19, Americans are feeling more stressed than ever. As of March, 53% of Americans admitted feeling stressed about COVID-19 often or very often. And that stress is two-fold for many — in addition to concerns about their health, many Americans also face financial diffiulties because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Worries about the economy and our own health are keeping Americans up at night,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communication for the BSC and ISPA. “The State of America’s Sleep survey outlines how these and other stressors are having a negative impact on our sleep quality.”

Financial fear

With lockdowns and stay-at-home orders canceling major events and closing businesses, the economic impact of COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects for many Americans.

More than half of respondents to the survey expressed a lack of confidence in the stock market. At the same time, 60% of Americans said they have money for savings invested in the stock market. When viewed through the lens of the decline of the American economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has generated record unemployment, along with historic losses in the stock market, there’s little wonder economic concerns are contributing to sleepless nights.

According to the survey, 69% of Americans are concerned about their financial future. More than half of respondents said they live paycheck to paycheck, and just over half also said they generally only have enough money to pay for necessities. 

Americans are saving less, too. Fewer save money regularly for unforeseen home expenses (44% in 2020 vs. 48% in 2019), as well as unplanned health expenses (down to 33% from 37% last year). There was a drop in saving for retirement, as well, from 43% in 2019 to 39% this year, and the number of respondents saving for college expenses dropped a full 10% from last year, from 43% to 33%. And respondents are saving less for stress-reducing vacation time — down 4% from last year.

Work woes

While many Americans are navigating layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts due to COVID-19, those aren’t the only work issues generating stress. 

According to the survey, three in 10 respondents feel disrespected at work, a drop from 74% who felt their workplace was respectful in 2019. And the mood of their workplace has worsened, too, with more than a quarter of Americans describing their workplace as an unfriendly environment, up from 22% in 2019.

Forty percent of respondents said they feel under pressure at work most of the time, with the remaining 60% saying they occasionally are under pressure on the job. And with well over half of respondents indicating they need at least seven hours of sleep to feel productive at work, there’s a high likelihood their lack of sleep adds even more workplace pressure. 

Whether dealing with unemployment or a difficult work environment, it’s clear that an increase in workplace issues has had an impact on Americans’ stress levels. Coupled with economic trouble exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are under more pressure than ever, leading to a rash of sleepless and restless nights for many months to come. 

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